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Student-led project fosters a new understanding of veterans

NORTHFIELD — For Northfield Community School seventh-grade students, each November is a chance to be a part of a special history lesson. For at least a dozen years, part of the social studies curriculum for seventh grade directs students to interview a local veteran or family member who has served in the military.

For some it is a visit with a grandparent or a phone call to a neighbor asking about the years of service, branch of military and some kind of story. But for seventh-grade student Delaney Hughes, a visit with a Northfield Historical Museum Curator Roy Clark was an interesting lesson for both the student and her veteran.

Hughes knows Clark as a coworker of her dad. But she learned a whole other side to this family friend. Clark, a Vietnam veteran, explained that not only did he answer the call to service, but so did all of his siblings. His brother James did not return from the war, as he was killed in action.

The opportunity to sit down and talk about his experiences in the war spurred Clark to dig through boxes as well as memories to uncover insignias, photos and memorabilia from his stretch of combat. Clark said he had a flood of memories as he dug in to support the project and even discovered his POW bracelet, something that was a staple on so many wrists in the states in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Retired Navy Chief Master Sgt. Bob Webb never misses a chance to share his military experience with students. In his dress blues, Webb had a crowd surrounding his table as he talked about his time in Korea as well as traveling around the globe.

Patrick Carney, a veteran wounded in Afghanistan, related his experience as did more than a dozen other veterans representing the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Air Force and Merchant Marines. “Our hope is to have our kids really interact and understand what our veterans have done and continue to do to safeguard our country,” said Steve Vain, the seventh-grade social studies teacher. “I think being a part of this project each year give our kids a very special perspective about veterans as well as instills a deep respect for what the people in uniform do for us every day.”

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